I have been called, on occasion, a world traveler. I won't pretend that I'm some sort of hardened Indiana Jones spending my days skimming the globe, but I do know enough about the world to pass on one universal truth: Hotels only wash the bedsheets, and not the bedspread that goes over top of them. Paying attention? Good. What this means to you, as a potential world traveller, is that you should always crawl under ALL the sheets, not just that top layer. After all, even in dignified business hotels, there's going to some dignified businessmen who will use any convenient part of the bed to mop up body fluids, which I discovered when I awoke the next morning in San Francisco with the blankets wrapped around my head. There are some smells that are distinctly less pleasant when encountered second-hand, especially first thing in the morning. After I finished scrubbing several layers of skin off my face in the shower, Greg and I made a gameplan. We had 22 hours to experience as much of San Francisco as we could get our hands on, whether we liked it or not, because we were minutes away from being homeless; there were no hotel reservations left, so it would be us verses the cold, cruel world until our flights took off around 10a.m. the next morning. Off we went. First stop: IHOP. Why be homeless on an empty stomach? While chewing on my gardenburger, I flipped through a San Francisco tourbook. This was really the first chance I had to do any research on the town; what the hell is there to do in San Francisco, anyhow? As far as I could tell, the most notable places were Haight-Ashbury (the drug district) and Castro Street (the gay district). I could tell right from the start that Greg would rather swallow feces than visit those places, but it's a friend's duty to lead his pals into dens of vice and corruption, and if nothing else, I'm fiercely loyal. Besides, spending the day discussing drug abuse and mansex would be good preparation for a college reunion. Across the street from the cable cars that would carry us back to the bay, we came across a bit of sidewalk with several unfolded card tables. The tables were prepared with chess boards, and all sorts of strange pairings were facing off over the various sets of pieces, while passerbys stopped to comment and cheer. This was too cool; Greg and I claimed an empty table and began arranging the pieces. A homeless guy stopped us and warned that it costs 50 cents per game to use the tables. I'm not sure if that was a scam, but it was well worth the money to whoop Greg's ass publically. Then again, this was nothing compared to my agonizing air hockey defeat at his hands later that night, but y'know, let's not get to gloating, here. Off we sped. Wearied by the travelling and overwhelmed by my charming influence, I managed to herd Greg onto a tram to, quite literally, the bad side of the tracks. Castro Street is, in more ways than one, miles apart from the Bay. After about 45 minutes of riding a tram (which is sort of like a train mixed with start-and-stop traffic), you start to notice something really disgusting. First, it's the rainbow flags that line the street. Then, you'll doubt that the girl you just passed in that lovely evening gown was really female. By the time you get to Castro Street proper, you will have no doubt come face to face with one of the real abominations personally. I'm not talking about the gay men. I'm talking about the advertisements for gay, lesbian, and transgender BANKING SERVICES. No joke. I say let men bugger each other if that's their thing. But, my God. When Martin Luther King said he had a dream, was he envisioning a more convenient ATM card for African-Americans? When Moses cried to Pharoah, "let my people go," was he preparing an exodus to the land of milk, honey, and equity trading? One of the many scary things about being a minority is not just that it targets you for prejudice, but also for marketing campaigns. One of the stores we past was called "Gay Cleaners." That aside, Castro Street definitely qualifies as the Emerald City. Everywhere in the world, everyone has been to that overpriced, overcultural corner of the city that your friends mockingly call "The Gay District." Castro Street is the epitome of such places; it is ubergay. Leather-clad bikers with bad mustaches hold hands with clean cut businessmen. Lipstick lesbians stand on the street corner kissing bulldog dykes. A television in the window of a club shows a male stripper's performance. The second story window of a piercings store displays a semi-erect, neon penis. Ignore the homosexuality, and Castro is still very, very queer. It is a perfect monument to fetishism, hedonism, and individualism. It is not so much art as it is expression, and it is not so much depraved as it is uninhibited. It is beautifully terrifying and revoltingly inviting. ...And the food is good. The sun was setting, and considering the environment, I figured that Thai food would be an appropriate dinner. After all, Thailand is reknown around the world as the best place to go if you want to purchase a young boy of high quality at a reasonable price. I wonder if QVC has gotten wind of this. Haight-Ashbury was a disappointing tourist trap, on the other hand. The highlight of that street was the teenager who had stuffed himself into a trashcan and begged for change from the unwitting passerbys. It was a brilliant, if not unfortunate, parody of the thousands of homeless people that accosted us throughout the day. Next, it was back to the arcades for thathorribleairhockeydefeatimentioned(*cough*). Anyhow. There were other arcades to be seen, like the Sony Meteron, which is very much like a five-story advertisement for the PlayStation. Unlike London's SegaWorld, however, every inch of the Meteron sucks, with one accidental exception. The exception: Dance Dance Revolution. For those that haven't seen this game firsthand, here's the gist. There are spots for two players in front of a video screen. Each player has four FOOT buttons that control an on-screen dancer that dances well if the right button gets stomped at the right time, and dances poorly otherwise. Players stomp in sync to vaugely familiar techno beats. To be honest, the game itself kinda blows, but watching people play it is downright hypnotising. Go and find an arcade that has one of these machines, and bring a video camera. The Meteron eventually closed for the evening. I keep hearing about these cities that never sleep. I've seen New York, London, and Paris. They all sleep. Some go to bed later than others, but there is always a point in the wee hours of the morning where even the bums go home. San Francisco is no exception, and Greg and I had no choice but to break back into the hotel and pretend to be paying customers just to have somewhere to go. We sat there for the last few hours, watched the management throw out a bum who was sleeping in a chair ten feet away, and struggled to keep our eyes open. For once, I was willing to endure white liberal guilt by letting the hotel staff believe that I had more reason to be on the premises than the black man they just escorted out. It's a sick world. All these damned homeless people everywhere. When I got back to Orange County, after Greg and I staggered onto our flights, I began to make preparations to pack up my apartment and move into the offices at Loki. --ryan.